La Torre Pendente di Pisa, known on this side of the pond as the Leaning Tower of Pisa is an interesting destination like no other. Built in Pisa, Italy between 1173 and 1372, trouble for this famous tower started early on when it was discovered the soil on which the foundation was constructed was too weak to support the structure itself. After much recalculation, several wars, and the efforts of many builders, this Romanesque beauty rose to its final height of eight stories nearly two centuries after its commencement. Closed for safety reasons by the Italian government in 1990, the tower’s significant lean (5 ½ degrees) was corrected to approximately 4 degrees (leaving it about 13 feet off center) and reopened to visitors in December 2001.
Elegant arcades and open galleries between each level are a real masterpiece of architecture. A beautiful spiral on the inner side of the tower walls takes you 294 steps to the top of the bell tower. From here you can look out over the picturesque city and into the distant misty hill tops of northern Italy. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is home to seven cathedral bells dating from 1262 to 1721, each tuned to a different part of the musical scale. This allows for its ethereal melodies to be carried throughout the countryside. The first story is a blind arcade on half columns and is constructed entirely of white marble. The remaining stories are a series of delicate archways and powerful columns. Topping out the tower is the Gothic style bell housing, intricately detailed and thoroughly enchanting. It is from here that Galileo carried out many of his early experiments on gravity. At the time, the Leaning Tower was the tallest building for many hundreds of miles, so it is easy to see how he could have been so inspired.
What was originally meant to be a simple bell tower for the adjacent cathedral has turned into one of the top tourist destinations in Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most visits are no more than half an hour, which leaves plenty of time to explore the cathedral, baptistery cemetery, and plaza. A visit to northern Italy just is not complete without a tour of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the surrounding city. Any tourist to the area should schedule in the time to see this remarkable and historic building.
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